A 2016 study from the UK College of Optometrists and University of Ulster found that 16.4% of UK children are myopic (short-sighted), compared with 7.2% in the 1960s.
Adults who spend long hours in front of computer screens may also be seeing a similar pattern. For those working in office-based jobs, the potential effects of extended screen-use on their eyes are more regularly experienced. The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that while no direct link between bad eyesight and screen use has been found, extended screen use can lead to a number of symptoms such as eye strain, dry eyes, blurry vision and headaches.
There are several things you can do as an employer to protect your staff members’ eyes from pain and discomfort and to reduce the effects of digital eye strain.
Why not help your workforce reduce tired, dry and sore eyes with these simple measures..?
Ensure regular eye tests
Everyone should aim to get an eye test every one to two years, or as and when we feel there are changes to our vision (i.e experiencing blurriness, headaches, eye strain or continued dry eyes). If your workplace requires extended periods of screen usage, you may be required to provide eye tests for your employees. The Health and Safety Regulations Act of 1992 states that workers that operate under particular circumstances and who work with Display Screen Equipment (DSE) are entitled to an ‘appropriate eye test’, paid for by their employers.
On a practical note, it’s important to note that prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses are separate and both require separate tests. Once you have a prescription, you can order your corrective eyewear from anywhere, not just from your optician.
Adjust screen settings
Don’t forget to adjust the settings on workplace monitors. Encouraging your employees to lower their screen brightness and increases the font size will help to decrease eye strain.
Protective screen covers
Protective screen covers are particularly useful for those who spend all day looking directly at a screen, because they have built-in anti-glare and UV-protective filters.
Keep your distance
You should also encourage employees to position themselves at an arm’s distance away from the screen, to be seated at an appropriate viewing distance.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule
Urge employees to take this simple wellbeing measure. After every 20 minutes of looking at a screen, you should look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds, hence the term ‘20-20-20’. This rule is a great methodology to incorporate in your workplace for all screen users. During these breaks, employees can also rehydrate their eyes with eye drops/artificial tears, should their eyes become excessively dry and uncomfortable.
External factors such as air conditioning can cause dehydration and contribute to dry eyes. Drinking plenty of water will reduce this, so give employees easy access to water and encourage them to keep hydrated. This could include handing out branded refillable bottles, for staff to keep at their desks.
Limit screen use outside of work
Big tech companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Instagram are rolling out apps and features that help you limit the time spent on your phone. These include auto-time limits that let you know when you’re past your allowed time, and ‘do not disturb’ features that stop notifications between certain hours. We all spend enough hours during the day looking at a screen, so we should avoid doing so when we’re not working. While employers may struggle to implement this, encouraging staff members to stay away from work emails when at home may help reduce the impact of screen usage at home.
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Nimesh Shah is MD of Feel Good Contacts
Sophie Barton is our Features Editor. She a journalist and editor with 20 years’ experience in the national media, specialising in wellbeing and lifestyle.